Bronze was the color of choice for Johnston County athletes in the NCHSAA 3A State Track and Field Championships on Friday at Aggie Stadium on the campus of N.C. A&T State University.
Three relay teams and a pair of individuals brought home third place finishes to lead a large contingent from the county in the gathering of the state’s best.
Cleveland’s 800-meter relay girls team, which won the state indoor title in February, took third in the state in one minute, 44.44 seconds. The Rams’ boys 1,600 relay team matched that finish. Lawson Lamm, Noah Pipes, Tyler DeLuca and Austin Blumenberg ran in the first (slower) heat, but rolled to a run of 3:28.48, better than all but two teams in the faster heat.
Samara Gibson grabbed her 400-meter girls bronze medal a week after she spent a lot of time running the curves after having issues with that portion of the race earlier in the season.
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“After regionals, we really worked hard on getting that right,” Gibson said. “To run a school record and a P.R. (personal record of 57.8 seconds) is a great feeling. A lot of the boys on the team helped me with it, and the coaches. Half of it was mental, I think, but I got through it and did well today.”
Cleveland’s Gable Dershem bowed out of the 1,600 to concentrate on the 3,200 after helping the Rams to a 13th place finish in the 3,200 relay along with twin Wyatt Dershem, Lamm and Blumenberg.
Then in the 3,200, he used a different strategy, keeping Cardinal Gibbons’ runner Connor Lane within his sights.
“My goal was just to stay with him, then try to beat him and earn a P.R.,” Gable Dershem said. “I was able to beat him, so it was a great race.”
Dershem finished in 9:41.67, six seconds ahead of Lane.
Corinth Holders senior standout Arden Vessie medaled in the girls 3,200 for the second consecutive year. She was second in the race last year, finishing in 11:37.99 this year.
“It was a really exciting race with a lot of things going on,” Vessie said. “So many good runners. I just wanted to finish strong and get that medal. It doesn’t seem like this is my last high school state championship meet, but it is. It’s great to go out with a medal.”
Vessie also made a final college decision recently. After signing to accept an athletic scholarship to East Carolina and then deciding to go to UNC-Chapel Hill as a student only, she is headed back to ECU after being accepted into the Honor’s College, pursuing a career in the medical field, hopefully as a doctor.
“It’s just too much I think to try to be a scholarship athlete and a student eyeing medical school,” she said. “I’ll still be a runner, but it will be more for fun now.”
Cleveland’s silver medalist 800 relay team included Cassidy McNierney, Alyssa Rivera, Syndi Fields and Hiranda Hinton (in 1:44.44). The Rams’ 400 relay team dropped a baton on an exchange and finished 16th.
Savannah Creed of South Johnston, the indoor state champion, took fourth in the pole vault, clearing 10 feet even.
In the team standings, the girls from Corinth Holders finished 13th, while Cleveland’s boys finished 16th in the state.
Corinth Holders’ Patrick Meyers was fifth in the 1,600 (4:26.34) and Cleveland’s Bryer Rogers finished sixth in the discus (136-9).
Area eighth-place finishers were South’s Jacob Gonzalez in the 1,600, Cleveland’s Sydni Fields in the 100 hurdles and Corinth Holders’ Cameron Rutherford in the 800. The Rams’ 400 boys relay (Kamal Rawlings, Greg Tyler, DeLuca and DaQuan Goodwin) was also eighth, as was Corinth Holders’ girls 3,200 relay (Kayla Ste. Marie, Hannah Canterbury, Rachel Strickland, Vessie).
Ninth-place finishes went to Cleveland’s DeLuca in the boys 200, Grant Sullivan of Corinth Holders in the pole vault, Cleveland’s Cassidy McNierney in the long jump and the Corinth Holders boys 800 relay (Josiah Adams, Jimmy Ferrell, Howard Watson, Sadavion Dixon). McNierney was also 14th in the triple jump.
Thirteen was the lucky number of Cleveland’s 3,200 boys relay team (Gable Dershem, Wyatt Dershem, Lamm, Blumenberg), while Corinth’s 400 relay team took 15th and Rawlings was 15th in the 100.
Smithfield-Selma freshman Gwyn Reece placed 15th in the 3,200 at 12:34.16.